Today, as I hear the news of one of my long-time patient’s end-of-life, I’m remembering a list of the things I enjoy and admire about her, and it causes me to reflect on the meaning of relationships with patients. My conclusion is simply this: Every patient affects me, in some small way or, often, in very significant ways. The relationship with patients is the secret sauce that makes being a physician such a unique and special opportunity. In some cases, I realize that my relationships are also very meaningful to them. I remembered this when my patient’s family told me, with tears, how much my visit yesterday meant to her, just a few hours before she decided to call off all of her medical life support and yield to the inevitability of soon-to-be-approaching demise.
So it isn’t just the preventive care, the lab tests, the prescription and refill of medications that makes seeing, or communicating with, the doctor relevant. It is a re-infusion of energy into an important relationship—the doctor/patient relationship.